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Addressing social workers' needs

27 March 2012

Mr Chan during the dialogue session with NUS students

To solve the high turnover rate of social work professionals in Singapore, the pay, structure and image of the social service sector will have to be reviewed, said Mr Chan Chun Sing, Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS), at a dialogue session held with NUS students on 26 March.

At the national level, there is a need to look into the manpower allocation in social services. One issue is recruitment - whether to get more Singaporeans or to hire foreign workers.

In terms of the profession, Mr Chan wished for a social worker council that would set a standard similar to the Singapore Medical Association, such that the professionals can be credited and respected.

"With that, then I can worry about the structure and organisation so that I can get the correct pay, progression to do justice to the passion. If I don't have the progression or respect, pay is irrelevant," noted Mr Chan.

At the dialogue, Madam Halimah Yacob, MCYS Minister of State, highlighted the importance of social work. "There must be community ownership. No matter what we do, we must never undermine the passion and commitment of the people on the ground who say that I want to do it because this is the right thing to do. It is my contribution to society, it is my legacy," she said.

Looking ahead, Mr Chan hopes that social workers in Singapore will eventually profile themselves as professionals with their own professional standards and qualifications. He cited the example of social workers in Hong Kong who are held in high regard and possess a certain level of legal authority.

Other topics discussed included how to attract people to join the social service sector whether they are fresh graduates or mid-career professionals; the effectiveness of MCYS' recruitment campaign; how to help small organisations; and empowering social workers.